The Olympic gold medalist opened up about overcoming the pressure of high expectations in a new interview with 'The B'
Even Mikaela Shiffrin, the most-winning World Cup alpine skier in history, deals with anxiety and overthinking.
In a new interview for The B, Shiffrin, 28, opened up about overcoming mental doubt and anxiety throughout her career.
Shiffrin said she's "learned that everybody faces challenges and struggles, and everybody on some level deals with anxiety," and at some point, "There’s always something we care about enough that the fear of not doing it well enough."
She confessed that "for a long time" in her career, she felt "alone in feeling nervous and anxious and fearing what the media would say" about her. Shiffrin also said she worried about what her friends would think and "disappointing family or feeling like the expectations were so high that I just couldn’t possibly reach them."
The two-time Olympic gold medalist shared, "And there was a period of time where I felt like, even if I won races, I was still destined to fail."
Shiffrin said she felt like she was watching her peers celebrate "turning 21" and their lives "just beginning," while she felt like her success at a young age forced unrealistic expectations on her.
"I was at a point where I felt destined to fail in this sport because I’ve had such great success. On the one hand, that’s amazing. On the other hand, I’m just setting myself up to literally disappoint people from here on out because I can’t possibly meet these expectations that people have set. I didn’t know how to keep getting better."
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Shiffrin said that "over time" she came to an important realization. "Life is not a linear climb," she told The B. "If you feel like you’ve reached the top of a mountain, it doesn’t mean it’s all downhill from there for the rest of your life. It just means you reached that summit and it might be downhill for a bit, and then you’ll climb again."
She continued, "You’ll get to experience the joy of it more than once in your life. Even in your lowest moments, you can always look forward to things picking back up as long as you’re passionate about it and you’re willing to work to improve."
While dealing with her anxiety, Shiffrin thought she'd "endlessly" face people picking her apart "for not exceeding their expectations."
Instead, she learned to adapt. "When you think, 'the expectations are too high and you’re never going to meet them, so why is it worth trying?' you’ll find that it might be in a couple weeks, it might be in a couple months, it might be in a couple years, but people adjust—and you adjust," Shiffrin said.
"As humans, we don’t love to experience change, but we are born to adjust and adapt to our environment. That’s something that I really hold onto now."
In March, Shiffrin cinched her 87th victory in the slalom event in Âre, Sweden, breaking Ingemar Stenmark record of 86 total career wins that he secured in 1989.
Shiffrin told The B that her 88th win triggered her anxiety to make her "fearful that people are going to be thinking I'll break 100 this year."
That made her "want to scream from the rooftop" for everyone to "just slow down and reset your expectations," said Shiffrin, "because this is just too much pressure."
Shiffrin said she realized that "it doesn't matter as long as I'm enjoying it."
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